Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: An Excerpt

by Leah J. Love

Trigger Warning: Graphic descriptions of domestic and sexual violence

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed.” —Steve Biko

“Envy thou not the oppressor and choose none of his ways.” —Proverbs 3:31

Most times, she didn’t fight back. Or she would fight at first, then give up. And it was in the moment that she relented, when her muscles went from being flexed to being in a defeated state of relaxation, that he justified the state of his manhood and his whole life. 

Most times, he would hit her at least once. But because he always used an open palm as opposed to a balled up fist, he always felt like it was not abuse. When he subvocalized his own reality, he did not call it domestic violence.

Most times, he restrained her. With his pants falling mid thigh, he’d place the weight of his whole body on top of hers. As he yelled at her, she could feel his dick growing harder against the meeting of her thighs. She wondered if he was sexually aroused by cursing her out.

Most times, he was not drunk or high when he forced her.

Most times, he did not have any excuse.

* * *

When she knocked on the door of his room, she was smiling. She had just had dinner with the best friend she ever had. Because she is vegetarian, she loves Indian food, Thai food, Japanese food and Ethiopian food. This time, they chose to eat Indian. She had her favorite Saag Paneer. Palak Paneer.

When she eats a favorite meal, nothing can ruin her mood.

When he opened the door, he seemed regular. He did not hug her or kiss her. He did not smile at her. He simply opened the door and turned to sit on his own bed.

As usual, she tried to talk. “How was your day, baby?” But he just glared at her and turned her head. “I had Indian with my girl today! It was the best!” No response from him. “I have to take you there. I know, I know. You say you don’t like exotic food. But baby, you need to try. You can’t eat hamburgers and french fries and coney dogs your whole life!” He reached for his remote. “Tomorrow, I’m gonna make you try sushi!” When the television cut on, it was louder than her. He did not adjust the volume.

She walked over to his computer and decided to check her email and her Facebook and her Yahoo! Messenger. Her best friend was home and logged onto Messenger too. Even though they had just talked for three hours straight, she still had more to tell her girlfriend. Every time she received a message, there was a slight ping: After her friend typed hello, ping. “How are you?” Ping. “How’s your boo?” Ping. “Are you going to study tonight?” Ping.

She didn’t even realize that her boyfriend was staring at her, breathing heavily, waiting for her to fix what was wrong. She typed giddily. She loved everything to do with technology. She loved her new flip phone. She loved her laptop and her tablet. She loved her PDA. She loved Google and Gmail and MySpace and Yahoo! Messenger and Facebook and Xanga and Blogger. If you knew where to look, you could find her entire life online.

He had been staring at her for at least five minutes before he walked behind the computer chair where she was seated. He grabbed a fist full of her hair. Her hair was soft in his hands; she had just gotten her hair permed that week. Before he even said a word, he lifted her by her hair out into the middle of the room. “Bitch!” he began, as if that were her given name. “Your ass never thinks about anybody besides yourself, eh?” What began as silent tears became an audible discomfort. “Didn’t you see me sitting there?” Each sentence got louder and louder. “Bitch, you hear me talking to you! Hunh?” He jerked her head to the side as if punctuating his sentences with her hair still in his hands. She opened her mouth to answer him, but only moans came out. Her trembling hands reached up towards her hair touching her scalp which was stinging from the pain of being pulled.

It took a while for her to realize what she did wrong. He hates to be disturbed. She should have put the computer and her cell phone on silent—anything that could buzz, rattle, or beep. In her excitement, she forgot. Now she was in a fight.

Is it really a fight, if one person does not fight back? If one person is cursing and the other listens, if one person is hitting and the other refuses to retaliate, is that one-sided cycle of violence really a fight?

She was not sure what to call it.

Even as he hit her, she was sure that she loved him. She felt sorry for irritating him to the point of rage. While he never opened his mouth to apologize to her, she apologized to him, “Saul.” He was not listening. Although his hands were no longer in her hair, his hands were still a threat. He began to slap her.

“Bitch,” he struck her cheek. “Why don’t you think about anybody besides yourself?!”

“I’m sorry!” He slapped her again.

“You don’t act like you love me.” He began striking her head in succession. She lost count of his hits and her own thoughts. “If you loved me you wouldn’t try to hurt me,” he told her. When he struck she did not hold out her hands to block. She did not reach out her hands to fight back. She received his physical temper, his violent expression because she honestly thought she was wrong. No one could determine when, but long ago—perhaps back in high school—she had started to believe his negativity. Now her self-esteem was wrapped around his fists. Her identity was tied to his insults.

In the past, he only stopped after she blacked out. The act of her falling to the floor was enough to get his attention. Only then would he stop striking her and walk away.

This time, he only stopped slapping her because he felt the weight of his own dick.

“Take off your shirt,” he said seconds after striking her.

“Now?” Her forehead was the only dry place of her face that her tears had not reached.

“Damnit! Didn’t you hear me?”

“Saul. Let’s wait.” She tried to back away. “I don’t want to fight and then kiss.”

“Bitch!” He grabbed her arm and dragged her to the bed.

“Saul, baby. Stop.” She never asked him to stop hitting her. But she was asking him to stop now. There was a part of her that, all these years, believed she deserved to be hit. There was a part of her that believed in a fairytale. She believed in making love over fucking. She believed that she was going to marry Saul. She dreamed of giving him a son. Yes, she knew he was violent. But she loved him. And a part of her thought he would change. He would change because of her. She would help build him become a better, stronger black man.

Although he demanded that she reveal her breast, he began with her pussy. He took her pants off first. This time she tried to hold up her jeans, then her panties. But his adrenaline was stronger than her fear. Only after her shaven vagina was exposed did he take off her shirt. She tried to hold down her shirt, then keep on her bra. But very soon she was completely naked except for her socks.

He left his clothes on and pulled his jeans and briefs down to his knees. He began to press all of his weight on top of her. “Saul, stop!” She laughed. As soon as she laughed she did not know why she was laughing. She was serious, nothing was funny. It must have been a nervous laugh. “I’m serious. Don’t do this.”

Saul was focused. He didn’t say a word. His penis was fully erect. He rammed it into her body in one swift motion. He began to pump. She stopped fighting him. She grew very, very still. The only thing that moved was tears from the crevice of her eyes down the side of her face onto his bed.

At least forty five minutes had passed and he was still fucking. She had not moved her pelvis or her back or her hands once. She just laid there with her mouth closed feeling the tears roll down her face.

He began to pull himself back and she let out a sigh. She thought it was over.

Almost immediately, he began to press his still hard penis beneath her vagina. It took a second for her to realize what he was searching for. “Wait! Saul! No!” These three words were the first things she had uttered in the last hour.

She was not even certain that he had heard her at all. He plunged himself into her back. As soon as she felt the ring of fire, she began to scream. She knew she could be heard in the adjacent dorm rooms.

He grew frustrated because only the tip of his penis was inside her. He began to thrust harder. He was going to force all of himself inside of her tonight. Partial was not good enough.

She was still screaming. He took his left hand and placed it over her mouth. She still screamed. Her sounds were muffled now.

Once he thought that all of his member was covered, he began to grind against her pelvis. His signature move in vaginal sex was in the shape of an upside down V. He wrote this arrow on top of her. He was trying to stimulate her clitoris.

Her body began to leave her emotions. Just for a few seconds, her back began to undulate beneath him. Concave, convex, concave. She had never orgasmed before this moment. For the longest seconds of her life, she felt the unwanted pleasure not just at the meeting of her thighs but throughout her entire body. No, no, no. She was not speaking out loud; she was subvocalizing to herself. Herself. No, it’s not supposed to be like this.

Immediately after she had her first orgasm, he pulled his penis out of her aching anus and pressed it to her lips. She cried harder as she opened her mouth. She did not lick or suck or move. She simply cried as she felt his release against her tongue.

He had stopped talking. He was satisfied. Nothing in his actions gave her the impression that he felt he had done anything wrong. She was still crying. Now the tears hurt so much that she was shaking as she cried. He laid down in the twin bed beside her, turning his back to her as if he was ready to go to sleep.

* * *

Jurnee felt ashamed. She felt betrayed by her own body. She could not understand how her clitoris and her serotonin could allow her to feel pleasure from something she did not like, did not want, did not enjoy.

This story is an excerpt from Order of the Oppressed.

Photo: Shutterstock

Lhea J. Love is a poet, essayist, novelist and screenwriter currently writing and residing in her birthplace, Detroit. Lhea is in the process of revising her first novel/screenplay, completing her third poetry chapbook and recording her first spoken word album. Above all else, she enjoys writing poetry with her four year old daughter Harper Lee.